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News & Articles

July 20, 2022 |

Incoming Channel Chief Says “There’s Never Been a Better Time To Be a Microsoft Partner”

Speaking at this week’s Inspire conference, newly named Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen highlighted opportunities in the Microsoft cloud rather than controversial topics like the New Commerce Experience and forthcoming partner program changes.

Stepping into a newly created post at a time of change and controversy, Microsoft’s incoming channel chief introduced herself to attendees of the company’s Inspire partner conference, held online this week, on an upbeat note, stressing the money to be made selling cloud solutions rather than the disruptions created by the ongoing overhaul of Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program and the forthcoming relaunch of its partner program.

“There’s never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner,” said Nicole Dezen, who was officially named Microsoft’s first-ever chief partner officer last week, in an Inspire keynote address yesterday. “With increasing customer demand, our R&D investments, and go-to-market capabilities, we will help you unlock new opportunities for growth.”

Dezen succeeds Rodney Clark, who unexpectedly left Microsoft in May to become vice president and chief commercial officer of Johnson Controls. In his 15 months atop Microsoft’s channel, Clark led the rollout of the New Commerce Experience (NCE), a sweeping set of revisions to rules, prices, and incentives for selling Microsoft 365 and other cloud solutions. A persistent source of frustration among partners, NCE was not a significant topic of discussion during yesterday’s keynotes.

Clark also spearheaded the creation of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, which will succeed the Microsoft Partner Network in October. The new program replaces the familiar Gold and Silver levels with two designations, Solutions Partner and Specialist, which members qualify for based on their “partner capability score,” which measures their success at adding new customers, driving increased cloud usage among existing customers, and earning certifications.

The program also replaces the Microsoft Partner Network’s 19 competencies with six solution areas, a transition that will ultimately benefit partners by aligning them more closely with Microsoft’s in-house sales organization, according to Dan Rippey, the company’s director of partner programs.

“[We’re] making it easier for you to go to market and sell with us, because our programs now represent the way we go to market and sell as a business,” he said. “These two motions are now identical, with no need for a translation dictionary between your business and ours.” 

Reiterating guidance offered earlier this year, Rippey also noted that Microsoft Cloud Partner Program members could either embrace new benefit packages tailored to their business focus or continue receiving the benefits they earn now.

“Microsoft is making multimillion dollar investments in the channel, increasing benefits across almost every program,” he said. “We’re also enabling every single Silver and Gold partner to retain the legacy benefits that you’ve come to rely on today.”

Alluding to partner requests and complaints, Dezen suggested that sales incentives in the new program remain open to adjustment. “We are listening and incorporating partner feedback into our strategy and plans to improve our partner incentives and investments,” she said.

Dezen also discussed new partner resources set to arrive in Microsoft’s 2023 fiscal year, which began this month, including more Modern Work Workshops, ready-made offerings aimed at helping partners deliver customized plans for adopting Microsoft 365 and Microsoft security services to end users.

“In FY22, we had over 15,000 customer engagements and in FY23 we will continue to scale this to help you drive growth in hybrid work, converged communications, employee experience, and Cloud PC,” Dezen said.

Additional learning resources, including Microsoft’s “Cloud Weeks” education programs, virtual hands-on labs, and digital on-demand training courses are coming in the new fiscal year as well. 

“Our customers are increasingly technical, and to stay relevant we need to match that level of tech intensity,” Dezen said. “This is why we’re on a multi-year journey of continued increased investments in tech skilling to deepen your technical capability.” 

Project Orland, an AI-powered customer lifecycle management tool in private preview since last July, is slated to enter a public preview open to all members of the CSP program in October, Dezen continued. The new system is designed to help partners acquire new users, exploit untapped cross-sell opportunities, and maximize customer retention.

In a move aimed chiefly at independent software vendors, Microsoft announced an agreement with marketplace software maker Tackle.io to help partners more easily add listings to its twin digital storefronts, Microsoft AppSource and the Azure Marketplace.

“You’ll be able to simplify sales, reduce deal cycle times and customer acquisition costs, and unlock growth by reaching new geographies and new sources of budget,” Dezen said. CSP members will benefit too, added Charlotte Yarkoni, Microsoft’s president of commerce and ecosystems, because Microsoft marketplaces are designed to help ISVs forge relationships with resellers. 

“We are making it easier and simpler to connect with customers across our network of 90,000 Cloud Solution Providers,” she said, pointing as an example to Microsoft’s margin sharing program, which lets software makers “extend margin to channel partners and win small and medium businesses.”

Marketplaces increasingly define how end users of all sizes buy technology. Tackle expects cloud marketplaces to process over $10 billion of transactions by the end of 2023 and $50 billion by the end of 2025.

Microsoft, which reports financial results for the final quarter of its 2022 fiscal year next week, produced $23.4 billion in cloud revenue through Q3. Partners, added Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a keynote yesterday, made even more as a result.

“For every dollar in revenue we generate, partners who build differentiated software solutions on the Microsoft cloud generate $10 more,” he said.

Plain old “lift and shift” projects remain a potent source of revenue for partners as well, observed Kathleen Mitford, corporate vice president of Azure marketing. “Migration, migration, migration,” she said. “It’s still early days, and customers continue to shift their IT budgets and workloads to the cloud. This is our highest volume, quickest revenue opportunity.”

Mitford urged partners to make migrating the “tens of millions” of on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server environments still in use globally into Azure a particular priority, noting that extended support for SQL Server 2012 recently expired and that extended support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will end next October. 

“This is a must win for us, period,” she said.

Microsoft announced increased sales incentives for Windows Server and SQL Server migrations yesterday, along with updates to Microsoft Teams, a new cloud-based contact center solution, and enhancements to Windows 365 that include a version of the product for local, state, and federal government customers.


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